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Checking Up on Two Rossies a Year After They Opened Their Practice

In November 2015, Narbeh Tovmassian and Garen Derhartunian—lifelong friends who attended Ross together, graduating in 2012—opened Elevate Health Group in their hometown of Glendale, CA, plunging into the uncharted territory of owning, operating, and administrating a brand-new primary care practice.


The seeds of this idea sprouted almost by happenstance when Narbeh and Garen, both in their second years of residency, were on the phone chatting about which specialties they planned to pursue after residency training.

“Narbeh wanted to do cardiology, and I wanted to do pulmonary critical care,” Garen recalls. “So we got on the phone and were discussing it, and we just came to the realization that we should do primary care together.”

They didn’t make that decision without some reservations, though. “People are scared to go into private practice,” said Narbeh. “There’s financial risk, and a lot of unknowns—we experienced that same fear when we started. But we stuck through it.”

Good thing they did. Because business is booming.

 

How They Elevated Patient Care in Glendale

In Elevate’s early goings in late 2015, things looked a little bleak. “We were barely seeing any patients in the clinic at first, and financially we took a big hit,” Garen said. “But we kept pushing.”

It’s something of a cliché, perhaps, but what a difference a year makes. Now, the doctors see upwards of 15-20 patients per day at their clinic, plus an additional 15 patients at the three hospitals with which they’re associated. Peruse Elevate’s entry on Yelp and you’ll see glowing review after glowing review.

What’s the secret to their growing success? It’s simple: the pair puts patients first.

“The entire philosophy for starting our practice was customer service,” Narbeh said. “All across the country, patients go to the doctor, sit in the waiting room, fill out a bunch of paperwork—then they wait a little longer. In some cases, patients are double- or triple-booked just so a practice can stay afloat.”

Narbeh and Garen upend that perception. No one waits for more than 15 minutes in their waiting room, and each patient gets his or her own 30-minute slot. “Everyone gets our undivided attention, and we’re very thorough,” Narbeh said. Their reputation has grown so much that patients come from cities outside Glendale to receive care.

 

Giving Back to Their Community

Glendale is one of the largest cities in Los Angeles County, and the doctors are very focused on truly being an integral part of the community in which they practice.

“We want to be more than just doctors,” Narbeh said. “We want to give back to the community in ways beyond serving as physicians, so we attend health fairs and fundraising events, we donate our time to the community, and really make our presences felt.”

It would seem that Los Angeles County has taken notice of the doctors, too. Recently, they were both named “2016 Top Docs” in Pasadena Magazine—an honor that Narbeh described as “prestigious”. Both doctors were nominated for the honor by fellow medical professionals in the area.

“It’s been very rewarding,” Garen said. “Narbeh and I grew up here, from elementary to middle to high school, and coming back to the community we grew up in is just so rewarding.”

Both doctors speak fluent Armenian, which is a plus in Glendale—the city is home to one of the largest Armenian communities in the US. “The majority of the Armenian population here is bilingual, but they do get a lot of comfort when we come to see them in the hospital, especially if they’re elderly and we speak to them in Armenian,” Narbeh said.

The two have returned to Armenia (though separately, and not for work), and planned to visit together as part of a medical mission program run out of Glendale Adventist Hospital, one of the facilities with which they’re associated. That trip got sidelined for a great reason, though—Garen’s first child was born in September, and Narbeh’s was born in December. Just like their fathers, the children are three months apart.

Who knows? Perhaps Narbeh and Garen’s children will open a practice together someday, too. But until that happens, their fathers are doing their part to address Glendale’s healthcare needs.

“It’s been great, and the community has really gotten to know us,” Narbeh said. “We’ve been keeping very, very busy—and we’re only getting busier.”